You're worried. Will my kids be ok? Am I doing homeschool right?? Have I ruined their chances to go to college? How do homeschoolers measure success?
On a day to day basis, sometimes your kids will be "on track" and sometimes they won’t as you homeschool. Human beings are asynchronous learners and it's to be expected that your child will not always line up exactly with a brick and mortar schooled peer. In no way, shape, or form, are all children at the exact same level for every subject and every skill at all times for 12 years of school from kindergarten to senior year.
Comparing kids is a little like comparing two sweaters: each is a little different but at the end of the day, they will both get the job done. And as they say when parents get frustrated with lack of progress in potty training, "Don't worry, your child will not be headed to college in diapers!" If your child seems to need some extra attention for, say, reading, then isn't it lucky you homeschool? You can take the extra time that's needed to give your child the attention they need without feeling shamed that they are "behind", because you can accommodate them right where they are and help them. Some things just take more time than others, and because you're homeschooling, you will have the time and room in your schedule and lives to get your kids there, even if it's a little sooner or later than their counterparts.
Here’s how I tended to judge our progress as I homeschooled (my kids are now at UC Davis.) Are your kids happy? Do they have balance in their lives? Do they have friends, do they get outside for exercise, and do they have interesting hobbies and interests to pursue? Do they rattle on a lot about various topics they are excited about? Do they read voraciously and/or do you read to them daily? Are they making progress in whatever you are doing with them, always? (Whether it be fast or slow progress is neither here nor there.) Are you continually reevaluating what you’re doing from year to year to make sure you’re not just recreating school at home, but taking advantage of the flexibility homeschooling affords you and doing lots of hands on, interactive activities, classes, real life learning, etc.? When something you're using (class, curriculum, resource) doesn’t work anymore for any reason, are you dropping it and finding something else that does? Do you follow their avid interests down the rabbit hole, dropping other plans for the day in order to “go deep” while the kids are interested and engaged in that particular topic? If you’re doing these things at some level on most days, I’d say you’re doing fine.
I also think learning about unschooling, even if you’d never do it, can help calm your fears and prompt you to think about your lives differently. I love this unschooling quote which explains what it is and what it could look like if you were to choose this educational approach:
"If you knew you only had a year more with that child, what would you expose him to? Where would you go? What would you eat? What would you watch? What would you do? If you had only ONE year—and then it was all over, what would you do? Four seasons. Twelve months. 365 days. Do that THIS year. And the next. That's how unschooling works. By living life as if it were an adventure. As if you only had a limited amount of time with that child. Because that's the way it IS." ~ Kelly Dunlap Lovejoy ❤
But you don't have to unschool to reap the benefits of a different approach to homeschooling. Homeschooling is an opportunity to turn away from school centric thinking and ways of learning and instead, embrace a flexible and relaxed approach to education. Yes, you can still be a little "schooly", covering all the main subjects (math, science, literature/grammar/writing, and history/social studies, for instance) while still taking a relaxed approach that looks NOTHING like school. There were many times over the years that I thought, "If a credentialed teacher walked into my house right now and evaluated what I am doing overall with my kids, they'd likely be horrified." However, my focus on interactive and varied learning, developing critical thinking and communication skills, and emphasizing learning HOW to learn over the memorization of facts and figures served my children VERY well. They both had 3.9 GPA's in community college and transferred to UC schools. That hypothetical teacher would have never seen it coming. Just goes to show that you don't have to do it like schools do to be successful.
Trusting the process and trusting that your kids are learning is a very challenging part of homeschooling, but you’ll get better at it as the months and years go by and you find your style and groove. But I also think that worry about how we and our kiddos are doing is what keeps us on our toes, too. It's like being a little nervous before going on a stage, even if you’re a seasoned performer…that worry helps you keep your edge, and keeps you always looking out for the next fun or cool educational experience your kids might benefit from, which is a very good thing. You've got this!